This week on the XLIVE Interview Series, we sat down with Tim Bookout, Director of Sales for Event Architecture (EA). EA began when one of North America’s top custom trade show houses, The Trade Group (TTG), discovered unique European-designed indoor/outdoor event structures. TTG decided to bring them to the US market and formed EA to focus primarily on brand activations. Read our interview with Tim below!
Thanks for sitting down with us today Tim. For those who don’t already know, can you give us a brief overview of Event Architecture (EA), the types of event structures you create, and share a few examples of EA structures with the XLIVE community?
EA launched just last year with one line of European structures that vary in size and function, supported by a group of over 100 professionals at TTG with diverse areas of expertise. We have designers, logistics, installers, a 6,000’ print shop, and a wood and metal shop all under one roof. This means that we can not only rent a structure but can deliver a complete project from concept to build to delivery and installation.
Are there different types of EA Structures? Can you tell us about the different sizes, prices, colors, materials, etc.?
Our smaller units are either 8’ or 12’ wide, and 8’ tall, 8’ deep. They come in three models. One has a merchandising window, another a sliding door entrance creating a small meeting space, and another with a bed to make a hotel room.
We also have 20’ wide or 34’ wide structures that can be 10’ or 20’ tall and are modular in depth in increments of 8’. We’ve built units 8’ deep to 56’ deep and can go even deeper. In addition, we have a two-story deck that can be used alone or combined with our 20’ wide structures to create an indoor environment with an upper terrace.
The structures are a combination of metal frame, wood floor and inflatable double-walled vinyl for the walls and roof, but every square inch of the outside and inside of our units can be branded or covered to create the desired look and feel. Common requests include carpet, printed fabric exterior wraps, logos on front and rear walls, lighting effects, air conditioning, counters, and seating.
Rental prices start at $2,500, but other factors like transportation, branding and installation come into play. Most projects start with a conversation on the overall project to determine the best fit.
What makes and EA structure unique, and how do you differentiate yourselves from other indoor and outdoor event structure providers?
We have unique modular, contemporary architectural structures – meaning that despite being able to install quickly, they don’t look temporary. They are sleek, with a rounded profile and the front and rear walls can be clear, opaque, or a combination of both. Some clients have chosen to use our units specifically due to their sound dampening qualities. For example, if you want to communicate your message in the middle of a music festival, it can help reduce some of the outside noise.
What types of events tend to use and embrace EA structures most? Which verticals within the live event industry do you work with most?
We have been used indoor and outdoor, at trade shows, music and food festivals, esports tournaments, and NCAA football games. The one constant is that there are usually big crowds. We offer a way to achieve a client’s goal in that atmosphere.
Most of our work is with experiential agencies and event planners, though many of the conversations begin with a brand employee. We have had a tremendous interest at trade shows and events where creative staff from brands and agencies stop by together, seeking a solution that is a good mix of function and originality.
We also have projects initiated by festival management and producers, media and public relations companies, venue managers and even other companies that supply event structures.
What is a common use case for an EA structure, and can you share a couple ‘out of the box’ uses you’ve seen at events?
Often we are a sanctuary in a loud, harsh environment. Sometimes we are a curiosity that attracts inquisitive visitors. We always offer a way to convey a message via a structure that is both inviting and exclusive.
One client used our smallest merchandising pod (YumYum) at a trade show, converting the look and function three different times during the day: first it was an information booth, then during the day they gave away promotional products, and at night it became a wine bar.
We had a client use our 20’ wide units for a training space for their own employees. It traveled all over the US and Canada.
Another client supplemented their standard product showcase with a totally separate lounge area, providing charging stations, meeting tables and areas for attendees to completely relax. The favorable reaction by providing this service exceeded the results from their primary display space!
Is there a category of product which has been most receptive (auto, beverage, B2C, etc.) to EA Structures?
Both in the US and globally, we have had more activations within the auto and food & beverage industries than any others, though esports and technology brands have also been attracted to what we offer. For example, people who stream commentary and interviews during live events really love our smaller pods, as they provide sound dampening and a good mix of branding and visibility. Events have also utilized our two-story deck for VIP lounges, which can add value to a more expensive ticket.
Can you tell us about some interesting locations EA has implemented their event structures, and any challenges EA has encountered while building in unique locations?
The Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance at the Pebble Beach Golf Course was a beautiful setting but also challenging in that there were hundreds of contractors converging on a small area to quickly build dozens of structures while attempting to maintain a posh atmosphere for guests. There were times when all construction had to cease due to TV taping. On the flip side, Coachella was blazing hot and dry, so keeping our installers hydrated and avoiding sunburn was paramount. We also provided units for NCAA football pregame events each week this season. Dealing with crowds, traffic and various restrictions at each location required additional planning.
You’re in a unique position to talk about trends which brand marketers and event professionals are going through. Can you talk a little about how brand marketers are approaching the live event space now, which they weren’t in past years?
Brands are looking for a completely immersive environment: special lighting, audio, moving visuals, and control over the climate and sound. They also like to provide amenities like shade and seating without in-your-face advertising. There is more crossover marketing where two or more entities combine for an activation. Recently we had an art show, auto brand and travel company all together under one structure. There has always been a desire for unique experiences. One nice thing about our EA structures is that their unusual shape and robust presence always generates interest with attendees wanting to investigate and find out more.
What’s next for Event Architecture (EA)? Is your group focused on improving current products, expanding to new markets, or some of both?
We have one team developing new items and processes to make our current structures more user friendly and easier to deploy. One example is ballast. Instead of using ugly cement blocks when ballast is required we are working with other materials and shapes like metal bars hidden under the floor or a bench that can add functionality and branding opportunities.
Other teams are constantly testing visuals like touch screens and LED walls. We have a variety of rental furniture and look to add more options. The designers behind our current structures already have other product lines that we will be bringing to North America at some point.
In terms of markets we will continue most of our focus on supporting experiential marketing experts. As they become more aware of our line and capability I feel confident they will include us in the vast array of opportunities that will continue to expand.
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